Christmas is a divisive holiday. There are those who decorate their lawns in November and revel in each tinsel-strewn moment with the slack-jawed grin and open wallet of a Midwesterner at Disneyland. Then there are those who face the season with a constipated scowl and heavy gin consumption, lashing out at children unprovoked and defiling their neighbors' inflatable elves. Like the merriest of holidays, musicals, too, stir up deep feelings of love or hatred. And so I offer this disclaimer: If you find yourself falling into the latter of either group, there is not enough peppermint-flavored Prozac at the entire North Pole to make you enjoy Christmas on Broadway. It is a full-on musical assault of holiday cheer.
This is not to say that Christmas on Broadway is a bad show. In fact, the five-member cast offers some truly stellar performances. The plot is acceptably slight: Four aspiring actors and one enthusiastic tour guide are snowed in at a defunct Broadway theater on Christmas Eve. What choice do they have but to stage a holiday-themed musical revue? The cheesy plot works because the cast acknowledges the over-the-top cheesiness and hams it up with glee. If you're a grown man dressed as an elf, why not embrace it and toss in a bouncy musical number?
The wide-ranging musical selection pulls from holiday classics ("Baby, It's Cold Outside," "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas") as well as more obscure tunes from Broadway musicals and composers. A '50s Christmas medley, including "I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas," is the high point of the first act. Director Rick Lewis wrote several of the songs himself, which tend toward the humorous or sappy ("Phantom of the Nutcracker Express," "A Christmas Star") and produce several groan-worthy moments. But the cast keeps the energy high through the many incarnations of their characters. Rebecca Teran's spot-on incarnation of Norma Desmond is hilarious, and Portland performance vet Amanda Valley shines as the eccentric tour guide, especially in her cabaret-style number, the humorously disturbing "Surabaya-Santa."
So if you're not a Scrooge, Grinch or Grumpus, push your tolerance for treacle with two hours of Broadway grandeur and holiday cheer.
SEE IT: Christmas on Broadway is at Broadway Rose New Stage Theatre, 12850 SW Grant Ave., Tigard, 620-5262. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays. 2 pm Saturdays, Dec. 1, 8 and 15. Through Dec. 23. $30-$40.